Friday, May 28, 2010

Dr. Ron Levant - The New Masculinities

These sections are part of a longer article by Dr. Levant (editor of the APA's Division 51 journal, Psychology of Men & Masculinity) from a feminist encyclopedia:
Men and Masculinity. (2001). In Encyclopedia of Women and Gender: Sex Similarities and Differences and the Impact of Society on Gender. Retrieved from
On the whole, the entry leans toward feminist (re)constructions of masculinity, but this last little bit seemed hopeful to me. Maybe I'm just naive.

First up, however, a quick summary of the old (read: existing) model that is essentially obsolete in the developed world, and is therefore more likely to be found in rural areas, or among those of conservative values and religious beliefs (read: mythic/authoritarian).
Traditional Masculinity Ideology

Despite the diversity in masculinity ideology in the contemporary United States, there is a particular constellation of standards and expectations that are commonly referred to as “traditional” masculinity ideology, since it was the dominant view in the United States prior to the deconstruction of gender that took place beginning in the 1970s.

Traditional masculinity ideology is thought to be a multidimensional construct. Brannon identified four components of traditional masculinity ideology: that men should not be feminine (“no sissy stuff”); that men should never show weakness (“the sturdy oak”); that men should strive to be respected for successful achievement (“the big wheel”); and that men should seek adventure and risk, even accepting violence if necessary (“give ‘em hell”). More recently, Levant defined traditional masculinity ideology in terms of seven dimensions:
  • The requirement to avoid all things feminine;
  • The injunction to restrict one's emotional life;
  • The emphasis on achieving status above all else;
  • The injunction to be completely self-reliant;
  • The emphasis on toughness and aggression;
  • Non-relational, objectifying attitudes toward sexuality;
  • Fear and hatred of homosexuals.
I reformatted the last paragraph into bullet points above to make it stand out more as a list.

I did the same thing with list of new traits, below, that men (many already possess these traits) will slowly evolve into over the next few decades/generations.

What form will the new masculinities take? Who will be the new role models? For contemporary, White middle-class men, the “strong silent” model of masculinity that suited our fathers clearly does not work. The “sensitive man,” as portrayed by the actor Alan Alda in several popular films, seemed to offer an alternative. Unfortunately this image of modern masculinity has been so negatively caricatured that many men will not touch it. In addition, we have to consider what are appropriate models for different racial and ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, and sexual orientations. The search for appropriate images of what it means to be a man is a central issue today.

Certain elements are likely to be evident in the new masculinities:
  • The new men will possess a combination of old and new traits.
  • They will still be strong, self-reliant, and reliable.
  • They will show care by doing for others, looking out for them, and helping them to solve their problems.
  • They will be logical and live by a moral code.
  • They will be good at solving problems and in being assertive.
  • But they will no longer be strangers to emotions.
  • They will have a greater appreciation of their own emotional life and an ability to express their emotions in words.
  • Their emotional lives will also be richer and more complex.
  • Anger will retreat to an appropriate level, and they will be more comfortable with sadness and fear.
  • They will feel less afraid of shame.
  • They will be aware of the emotions of others and adept at reading their subtle nuances.
  • They will have a better balance in their lives between work and love.
  • They will be better husbands and lovers because they will be able to experience the true joys of intimacy and come to prefer that over non-relational sex.
  • They will be the fathers that they wanted for themselves.
Levant is author of A New Psychology of Men, Masculinity Reconstructed: Changing the Rules of Manhood, and Men and Sex: New Psychological Perspectives, among other books.

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